New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down on his defense of the NYPD as he announced a “review” into the force’s aggressive handling of protesters over the weekend.
He promised Sunday that two of his appointees _ and not the city’s independent investigative agency _ would look into shocking incidents such as NYPD vehicles ramming into protesters Saturday.
“There are many things that I can tell you that I think were done right by the NYPD, especially the level of restraint, but there also were mistakes and there were individual actions that must be fully investigated,” de Blasio said at a press conference.
He said he hoped the review would identify officers who should be transferred to another precinct or fired.
The city’s Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson and Investigation Department Commissioner Margaret Garnett will share “very quick results” of “an initial evaluation” in June, the mayor promised.
The duo echoed de Blasio’s comments about the NYPD, which the mayor praised for showing “restraint” in spite of widely shared videos of officers driving into protesters with SUVs in Brooklyn and of a cop pulling down a demonstrator’s face mask to blast him with pepper spray, among other examples of aggressive police conduct.
“The vast majority of police action was appropriate,” Garnett said. “Where that was not the case, we rightly have a higher standard for the police.”
The state attorney general will also “review” the protests, according to Gov. Cuomo.
He took a dismissive tone toward demonstrators in New York City and beyond, who began taking to the streets last week to protest the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of police.
“Burning down your own house never works and never makes sense,” Cuomo said at an Albany press conference on Sunday, characterizing protesters’ concerns as “a whole array of issues and vagaries.”
“We know what needs to be done. We know what reforms we need,” he added.
The press conferences came as the nation reeled from a weekend of chaotic protests. Hundreds were arrested and looting was reported from Los Angeles to Tampa, prompting the National Guard to be deployed in about 10 states.
Cuomo said the National Guard was on standby for possible deployment in the Empire State.
“Any place that needs additional help, where the local police can’t handle it, we have National Guard and we have state police,” he said.
Saturday night was pervaded by heated confrontations between protesters, some of whom threw bottles and vandalized property, and police officers, who were caught on video shoving civilians and yelling profanity.
Downtown Brooklyn, the Union Square area and Harlem were the epicenters, according to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. Nearly 350 people were arrested during the protests and more than 30 police officers were injured, he said, though Shea and de Blasio declined to disclose how many protesters were hurt.
In one incident that drew outrage from numerous leaders, two NYPD SUVs rammed into protesters surrounding the vehicles on Flatbush Ave.
De Blasio and Shea defended that conduct, with the mayor saying, “Sometimes when there is a surge into the crowd, it’s because there is an individual in that crowd who is seeking to do violence who must be arrested.”
It was a jaw-dropping statement for a mayor who won office in 2013 on a promise to end racially discriminatory police practices.
De Blasio was irked when asked if he was defending the NYPD out of fear of angering the police.
“I do not have fear or I wouldn’t be in this job,” de Blasio said. “For God’s sake, c’mon.”
He and Shea said they expected protests to continue Sunday.
Unlike in numerous cities from coast to coast, they said the Big Apple had no plans to implement a curfew.
“There are ugly moments that we’ve seen, but we are holding New York City down and we’re going to continue to do that,” Shea said.
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